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Publication #FSHN20-26

COVID-19 and Food Safety FAQ: Shopping and Handling Groceries1

Natalie Seymour, Mary Yavelak, Candice Christian, and Ben Chapman2

Updated April 21, 2020

Current evidence shows the biggest risk of transmission of COVID-19 is being around individuals who have symptoms (and to a lesser extent, infected but not showing symptoms). Grocery stores should be following employee health policies and health department recommendations to keep these individuals home.

SHOPPING

WHAT STEPS CAN I TAKE TO MINIMIZE RISK WHEN SHOPPING AT THE GROCERY STORE?

  • Use hand sanitizer when entering stores, and wash hands and/or use sanitizer after leaving.

  • Wear a cloth face covering while shopping.

  • Bring disinfecting wipes and use on cart and basket handles and card readers.

  • Maintain social distancing as much as possible while shopping and give others at least 6 ft of space.

  • Avoid touching surfaces or items unnecessarily and avoid touching your mouth, nose or face.

  • Do not go shopping when showing symptoms or if you think you have been exposed to the virus.

WHAT IS MY GROCERY STORE DOING TO MINIMIZE MY RISK?

  • Many stores are following CDC guidelines on cleaning and disinfection. Some are limiting hours to allow for additional cleaning and disinfection.

  • Stores may also be providing hand sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes for carts or baskets, and may ask sick employees or customers to leave.

  • Grocery employees are essential employees and encouraged to wear cloth face coverings.

  • Stores may also limit the number of people allowed to shop at one time, and enforce physical distancing while in line inside and outside the store.

IS DELIVERY A SAFER OPTION THAN GOING TO THE STORE?

  • Delivery or pre-order is a great risk management decision, especially for vulnerable individuals.

  • Delivery helps limit the number of people in the store and helps with social distancing, as well as the number of people touching surfaces.

  • Pre-order or delivery also prevents the shopper from inadvertently exposing others if they are infected but not showing symptoms.

HOW SHOULD PRODUCE BE HANDLED?

  • Consider using hand sanitizer before and after selecting produce items.

  • Avoid touching multiple produce items when making selections.

HANDLING GROCERIES

HOW SHOULD I HANDLE GROCERIES WHEN I GET HOME? CAN I BRING THEM INSIDE RIGHT AWAY?

  • There is no indication that food or food packaging material has served in significant connection to virus transmission.

  • Handling of food packaging should be followed with handwashing and/or using hand sanitizer.

  • It is NOT recommended to store groceries outside of the home, in cars or garages.

HOW SHOULD I HANDLE GROCERIES FOR SOMEONE WHO IS IN A VULNERABLE POPULATION?

  • If shopping for someone else, best practice is to drop off groceries while maintaining social distance.

  • If entering a home to care for someone, wash hands immediately upon arrival, while unpacking and before providing direct care.

SHOULD PRODUCE BE WASHED BEFORE EATING? SHOULD SOAP OR A DISINFECTANT BE USED?

  • Washing produce before eating is always a good idea. Rinse with cool running water or soak in cool water right before eating.

  • It is NOT recommended to wash produce with dish soap or any detergent.

  • It is NOT recommended to treat produce with chemical disinfectants or wipes at home.

SHOULD I ONLY BUY FOOD THAT CAN BE HEATED?

  • There is no evidence that food is a transmission route for the virus.

  • There is not current data about the temperature to inactivate the virus, so heating recommendations are not science-based.

TIPS

  1. Use hand sanitizer and cart wipes.

  2. Shop alone and go with a plan.

  3. Maintain social distance.

  4. Only touch what you will buy.

For more info, visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov

(800) 232-4636

Footnotes

1.

This document is FSHN20-26, one of a series of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date April 2020. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Natalie Seymour, MS, Extension associate; Mary Yavelak, MS, Extension associate; Candice Christian, MPH, Extension associate; and Ben Chapman, professor, food safety specialist; NC State University Extension. UF Contact: Michelle Danyluk, professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred, FL | mddanyluk@ufl.edu | (863) 956-8654.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.